An instructor at Texas A&M was suspended based solely on a second-hand account that she had made critical comments about the state’s lieutenant governor:
Joy Alonzo, a respected opioid expert, was in a panic.
The Texas A&M University professor had just returned home from giving a routine lecture on the opioid crisis at the University of Texas Medical Branch when she learned a student had accused her of disparaging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick during the talk.
In the few hours it took to drive from Galveston, the complaint had made its way to her supervisors, and Alonzo’s job was suddenly at risk.
“I am in a ton of trouble. Please call me!” she wrote to Chandler Self, the UTMB professor who invited her to speak.
Alonzo was right to be afraid. Not only were her supervisors involved, but so was Chancellor John Sharp, a former state comptroller who now holds the highest-ranking position in the Texas A&M University System, which includes 11 public universities and 153,000 students. And Sharp was communicating directly with the lieutenant governor’s office about the incident, promising swift action.
Less than two hours after the lecture ended, Patrick’s chief of staff had sent Sharp a link to Alonzo’s professional bio.
Shortly after, Sharp sent a text directly to the lieutenant governor: “Joy Alonzo has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation re firing her. shud [sic] be finished by end of week.”
The text message was signed “jsharp.”
This naked violation of free speech and academic freedom for narrow partisan reasons is just the amuse bouche in College Station, however. A&M’s president Katherine Banks resigned after the following sequence of events occurred:
- Kathleen McElroy. a highly respected journalism scholar at UT Austin, was made an offer with tenure to run A&M’s journalism program. The hire was announced with fanfare.
- The tenured offer was withdrawn and replaced with a three-year contract.
- The three-year contract was replaced with a one-year at-will contract.
- The explanation offered by the dean was “you’re a Black woman who worked at The New York Times.”
The day before Banks’s resignation, there was an amazing meeting with the faculty Senate in which she denied knowing anything about the second and third contract offers:
In 37 years as a faculty member, I have never seen anything like this video.
It's the faculty senate at Texas A&M meeting with the university's president, Katherine Banks, the day before she resigned.
The reason she resigned is clear from the clip. https://t.co/JEtaxywjSX 1/— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) July 24, 2023
The original offer was approved by the university and accepted by McElroy, Banks says.
"We did not revoke or revise the original offer." She repeats this so many times that you know it comes from the lawyers.
"Plausible deniability" is what the senators will later call it. 6/— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) July 24, 2023
The whole crisis involves the three offers the candidate was shown, but Banks has no copies of them with her.
VP for faculty affairs N.K. Anand is on the call. He says he never received these other offers.
The people WHO RUN THE UNIVERSITY thus present themseves as clueless. 7/— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) July 24, 2023
Cancel culture really is out of control!
Remember when Bari Weiss located her pseudo-university in Texas because if Elon Musk located there it must have a robust commitment to free speech? And as they both define it, it does!